SEATTLE – More seismic activity at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night. No shattered windows, though. No cracks in the concrete. No towers toppled.
But then, in the singular tectonics of planet Seahawks, the shock and shudder from Kam Chancellor’s impact registers well below the surface.
“He damages people’s souls,” said Seattle teammate Richard Sherman.
On something of an evening off for the Beast Quake facet of the Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champions replaced it with something that might be called the Kam Shake. And, yes, it rocked the Carolina Panthers where they lived, turning a tense little drama into a 31-17 Seattle kaboom, and set the stage for another NFC Championship game here a week from today.
The opponent will be Green Bay or Dallas, and the survivor will not be comforted by the images captured by the Kam Cam.
Perhaps there will even be some soul-damaging in advance.
“He goes to a dark place a lot of time,” Sherman said, elaborating on his theme, “and when people don’t bring their flashlights, they get lost.”
OK, enough of the Prince of Darkness motif.
If Sherman is the captain of the varsity bombast team, Chancellor gets cut from the JVs. In street clothes, he is a gentle enough soul, even if his pecs look ready to split his dress shirt at the seams.
But there is no underestimating the ways he took apart the Panthers – though, of course, it was his 90-yard pick-six that put the twitch in Seattle’s seismometers and settled this minor disagreement.
It started simply enough, with a couple routine tackles. Then late in the second quarter, after Seattle had taken a 14-7 lead, the Panthers threw a little screen pass to DeAngelo Williams, with 310 pounds of guard Andrew Norwell out in front to escort him in the open field – except that Chancellor shed Norwell’s block and drove Williams to the turf for no gain.
The Panthers would recover to put together a nice drive that finally stalled in the red zone, and lined up so Graham Gano could try a 35-yard field goal 4 seconds before halftime.
At which point Chancellor came hurtling over the Carolina offensive line in an attempt to block it.
Not just high above the line. Over it – and into the backfield.
“I did that one time – either last year or the year before,” Chancellor said, “but it was a failed mission. I fell over the center. I hit his back and fell over. It was something our coaches had seen on film, something we could attack.”
A false start by the Panthers wiped out the attempt, and the ridiculous visual of Chancellor leaping tall men in a single bound. At least, it must have in the minds of Carolina’s long snapper and guard, who again stayed low on the snap.
So Chancellor did it again.
This time, Gano was so unnerved by the sight that he bladed the kick in the direction of Enumclaw. Chancellor’s momentum banged the kicker to the ground and again flags flew.
“Once he saw me, he just shanked it,” Chancellor said. “No way I could have got it at all.”
Gano recovered to make his third try, possibly because the Seahawks abandoned the stunt. Nonetheless, the next time Pete Carroll is choosing up sides for pickup hoops, Chancellor’s going to be the first draft choice.
“Oh, I can ball,” he said. “I can get up there.”
Can he dunk from the foul line?
“I can’t do that, but I can windmill for you once I get up there.”
But even that was just scene setting for the game’s pivotal turn in the fourth quarter – the Panthers again driving into the red zone after Seattle had taken a 24-10 lead. The game’s other Cam – Panthers quarterback Cam Newton – had a smart march going, until he threw short pass at tight end Ed Dickson that Chancellor saw coming all the way.
Ninety yards later, the 26-year-old strong safety had the longest postseason scoring play in Seahawks history.
“I was looking at Cam and the D-line getting all the pressure,” Chancellor said. “He was under duress and just wanted to get rid of the ball. I just stayed next to my guy and (Newton) just turned and threw it blind.”
Somewhere in a Clink suite, Kenny Easley must have enjoyed the moment. He is the franchise prototype for the position, one of the most feared hitters of his era, and improbably he’d been invited back to hoist the 12th Man flag before the game. His daughter also dated Chancellor briefly in high school in Virginia. Now there are flattering comparisons. Last year, former NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott told the Tacoma News-Tribune that “Kam Chancellor right now is as good as any safety that’s played the game of football … there was only one guy I know that’s better and that’s Kenny Easley.”
Sherman’s take was, as usual, more gut-level.
“He’s a freaking monster,” Sherman said. “He’s a ridiculous man.”
Call it a soul-shaking endorsement.
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